As I was reading this book, the first thing I noticed was how much action it had. There seemed to be very little meaning, or room for interpretation. It was a struggle to try to remember how much gold Joaquin and his banditti plundered, how many of his followers were killed, or how many people he and his followers had slain. With all of this to focus on, it was very easy to take this book at face value.
One thing that I did manage on my own was to try to delve into Joaquin’s motives and character. It was fairly easy to see that he chose the lifestyle of thievery and murder because of what Americans in general had done to him. When he tried to play by their rules, it didn’t work out, so he set about making his own to go by. The fact that Joaquin still went about things in a somewhat honorable fashion, i.e. not killing those who had helped him, and not killing women and children, was almost admirable, of course this was through the author’s perspective. Other than this, there didn’t seem to be much to the book.
In class today, we discussed the book in a little further detail, and people seemed to have the same opinions, only differing in who liked Joaquin as a character, and who didn’t. But when we looked at the poem in the beginning of the book, and talked about that, I had a kind of revelation. Given the time period, and circumstances, the poem seemed to be the underlying theme of the entire book. The lines “And well this Golden State shall thrive, if, like its own Mount Shasta, sovereign law shall lift itself purer in the atmosphere – so high that human feeling, human passion, at its base shall lie subdued;” jumped out at me. I made the connection that this was a transcendental reference, speaking of higher law than what man can construct, and something man should yearn to comply with. When Joaquin tried to go by “the law of the land,” as established by Americans, it was full of injustices, and he followed a way that, at least to him, seemed more just than the pre-existing ways.